Building a Community Means Solving a Problem, Together
Any brand wanting to set up a community has a key challenge to meet - customer engagement
There are elements of customer support with customer engagement that will come together and need to work both ways. These behaviours are key for the development of a community. With no force propelling people together, and motivating them to spend their free time and energy on mutual goals, there’s no reason for a community to grow, let alone maintain itself long-term.
The community I look after brings together a variety of people from different industry and roles, all united by one thing – they are passionate about answering business questions. Not just any questions though – questions that can be solved using analytics.
Generally, analytic questions require the following elements to solve:
- Skills powered by curiosity
- Knowledge of data resources
- Knowledge of the business context
The people who want to solve the challenges facing them in business often don’t have specialist skills, for example, coding, and they might not have access to the right technology for their skills – but they generally are experts with the knowledge of their own data and what it means to the organisation. That means they have a passion, they have a need, and they have a drive – and that’s all that’s needed for a community to grow when it’s made up of passionate problem solvers.
This community is all about enabling individuals to demonstrate their ability to support their work and to help someone they empathise with. It’s a community because users truly embrace and support others so they can learn and grow together. As co-contributors, people share what they know and engage with others – and it’s amazing when you give people that challenge how they take it on.
A key component of my role as Chief Customer Officer is to support the Alteryx community and support the resources that they can use, share, and learn together. ‘Customer support’ has a broader definition for us: We see it as enabling the Alteryx community, and helping to support the community at large beyond that, with programmes like Alteryx for Good and User Groups. Alteryx For Good enables users to donate their analytic skills to not-for-profits. Charitable organisations are successful when they operate as a business using analytics to answer key questions. We can play a role in enabling skilled people help them out. It satisfies our users’ desire to solve problems, and to give back to their community with valuable analytic skills.
Another format where the community supports the community is by encouraging in-person user groups, run by fellow customers, not by the brand, as an open forum to share, network, and engage together. It has proven extremely popular, and continues to grow in my world of analytics. As much as we all live and work in a digital world, nothing beats face to face communications, networking and sharing. Our customers come armed with their own challenges and points of view, and together they help each other to solve them. By helping the community support itself, we help the company build customer growth and support users on their journey by matching them to those who have overcome the same challenges, and empower their education to succeed.
Brands often forget that customer support is not just a one-way street – it’s about growing together when it’s done well – the classic ‘virtuous circle’. When the community is active, they are exciting each other, keeping the group buoyant with possibilities and reasons to come back to learn, to ask – and to brag!
Curating a community
Brands setting up a community need to allow room for organic interactions, and for different channels where their users feel able to interact. Communities are not monolithic, they may be made up of multiple outlets for people to participate in.
There are factors to watch out for too. When Alteryx set up our community platform and enabled the first user groups we were very excited, thinking that customers would jump in right away. But people move at their own pace – we had to continue build the content, the platform, engage the growing community, and ultimately, let them come together when they were ready!
There’s a lesson about growing in a sustainable way there, and about the virtues of hard, patient work. Overnight successes are really built over time and with much brow-sweat.
Make everyone a co-contributor. Customers in our user groups set their own agendas, Alteryx just helps them build awareness and supports them in their ownership of it. That way they communicate their passion and pride all by themselves.
The overriding factor is to make sure that you continue to enhance the content you deliver, helping users build on it too. If it is not clear, brainstorm and find out about what users want to talk about and help them do it.
There’s another lesson there too. Trust users to be brand ambassadors. Trust and commitment goes both ways – though often brands have to start it off. Never be afraid to ask people to help others, there’s a lot of good out there. People get a thrill out of doing good and solving problems, we’re here to help them do that.